‘I was okay with him having a daughter. NOT an ex. When I met her, she said ‘hi’ and walked away. Hi? That’s it? She hates me!’: Stepmom recalls jealousy, insecurity over husband’s ex-wife

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“My road to becoming a stepmom was fun, exciting, and also very hard. I met my husband at a time when I wasn’t looking for a serious relationship. In fact, I had visions of an ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ type of life.  I was applying for jobs anywhere outside of the U.S. and actually landed an interview with a company in Ireland. Why Ireland? Your guess is as good as mine, but I was ready to be single and travel the world. So, it was right around that time my best friend, Meredith, invited me to a weekend getaway to her family lake home. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity for one last summer hurrah with friends before I skipped the country.

It was our last day there when we went out on the boat with Meredith’s brother and his friends. Spoiler Alert, one of his friends is my now husband, Sam. However, you wouldn’t have ever guessed it based on that weekend. I think we said a total of 3 words to each other, but I was definitely intrigued by the hottie in the pink trunks. I remained focused, there was no time for a relationship. I was moving 4,000 miles away for a fresh start. Besides, I overheard him say he needed to head out to pick up his ‘better half.’ So, he clearly had a girlfriend anyway.

Courtesy of Karyn Liebler

Fast forward a week later, I got an email from him asking if I could send the video I took of him wake surfing. We started emailing back and forth, then exchanged numbers. It was during that time he told me about his 1-year-old daughter, his ‘better half.’ We stayed in touch over the next few months but it never went beyond that because we lived three hours apart. The Ireland interview was a bust and they offered the position to someone else, so I decided to stay where I was.  Skip to December when I found myself with Chiefs/Packers tickets and Sam was the only person I wanted to go with. The date was wonderful, and we have been together ever since.

Courtesy of Karyn Liebler

In the beginning, we would meet up every other weekend. I would travel to Missouri when he didn’t have his daughter, or he would come to Illinois on his free weekend. I always commend Sam for taking his time so he could be sure he was making the right choice before introducing a new woman into his daughter’s life. So, after a little over three months of dating, he decided it was time for us to meet. I was excited to finally meet the most important person in his life. He sent me pictures and videos over those three months so I felt like I already knew a lot about his sweet girl. However, that’s also when reality started to hit me.

Up to this point, I was living in that new relationship honeymoon phase and hadn’t really thought about the challenges that come with dating a man with children. So when Sam mentioned he was going to tell his ex about me meeting their daughter, it gave me hives. My experience with split homes was minimal at best. While I lost my mom when I was just 18, my parents had a wonderful marriage for over 20 years. I had no clue what it entailed to share 50/50 time with parents. It became apparent very quickly I was more than okay with him having a daughter, but not so much an ex.

I have seen some people criticize step mom struggles by saying, ‘You knew what you were getting into,’ but that’s not exactly true. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the relationship and how wonderful their children are, and forget there is a whole other aspect to consider. I clearly knew I was getting into a relationship with someone with a child, but I didn’t prepare myself for how it would play out with his ex.  I struggled to understand how they wouldn’t want to be together. Sam and my stepdaughter’s mom had been broken up for over a year when we met, but I still wondered if they would ever want to work it out. When they had to talk, it made me feel so insecure and unsure if I could do this for the rest of my life.

It might sound so naïve, but I hadn’t thought about how much contact they would have to have. She was only 2 years old, of course there would be a lot of communication! However, it was very hard for me to see the situation for what it was, a mom and a dad co-parenting their child. I remember a time when she had to come over to discuss a few things and I was so nervous. I was at work the whole time thinking, ‘I wonder where she’s sitting? Are they sitting on the same couch? Surely Sam would be in the chair across the room. Would they start talking and realize they wanted to be together? It’s been an hour, why hasn’t he texted me and told me every single thing they talked about? They’re definitely back together, in Vegas getting married.’ I was a total crazy person. Much to my surprise, Sam called to fill me in. They weren’t back together, there was no Vegas, and it was no big deal. They were simply talking about some visitation logistics and how he was going to handle introducing me to their daughter.

That experience was eye opening and helped me realize my irrational thoughts were just that, irrational. Don’t get me wrong, I still had my struggles, but I was growing very confident in our relationship. Not to mention, it made things much easier on us when I decided to pack my bags and move to Missouri. I finally felt like I was getting into my groove and loving being a stepmom.

Courtesy of Karyn Liebler

Now that I had met Sam’s daughter, I wanted his ex to know exactly who was going to be around her daughter. I tried to see things through her eyes, or how I would want this handled if I were in her position. If there was a woman coming into my daughter’s life, I would need their social security number for a background check, 20 references, and answers to a list of 100 questions. You can imagine my surprise when I meet her while at pick up, introduce myself, shake her hand, she says ‘hi,’ and walks away. Hi. Hi? That’s it? Where’s the interrogation? Where’s the drug test? I told Sam, ‘What the heck was that? She hates me! It’s fine, I can totally win her over. I should probably text her.’ Again, insert crazy town. He told me she probably just trusts his judgment and she’s not really the type of person to get worked up. He told me not to text her and she would eventually warm up. That being said, I texted her.

Writing this now, I have serious second hand embarrassment. Have you ever done something that seemed totally normal at the time, but upon looking back, it’s not normal at all? This is one of those scenarios. I sent her a text that much more resembled a novel, explaining a little bit about myself, my number, and that she could reach out to me anytime if she ever had questions. She was nice enough not to make me feel dumb for sending the message and replied something along the lines of, ‘Thank you for reaching out, I will definitely keep that mind.’ Well, the crazy didn’t stop there.

Courtesy of Karyn Liebler

After a few interactions, I felt like she preferred to pretend I wasn’t there. I’m sure after the 100th time I brought it up, Sam reached out to let her know I was trying to make an effort and it would be nice if she would interact. She sent him back a message of, ‘What do you want us to do, Sam? A spa day??’ The funny part about that is, we would totally do a spa day together now, but then, it was more of a, ‘What does this girl want from me?,’ message. I didn’t get it then, but I do now. She didn’t know where our relationship would end up and she was just focusing on her daughter. I’m not a patient person so I was trying to force a relationship that didn’t need to be pushed. In hindsight, I would have let time do it’s thing because she came around and we developed a great co-parenting relationship amongst the two of us.

It helped me overcome a lot of my insecurities by building somewhat of a friendship with his ex. I don’t mean that in sense of calling each other every night or hanging out all time. It was just nice for my step daughter to see the two women in her life getting along, sitting together, and putting their energy on loving her, not needless drama.  She and I are different in a lot of ways, but we found our commonalities and grew from there. However, it’s not always rainbows and sunshine.

Beth Dunn Photography

Even within the last year, a situation came up that I wasn’t sure she and Sam’s co-parenting relationship would ever be okay again. I remember telling Sam, ‘I don’t see us coming back from this. There’s so much anger and too much has been said that neither side can take back.’ We had to do what has always gotten us through rocky times, communicate. When things went off the rails in the past, we would meet up and work it out. Sometimes things got heated, but we wouldn’t leave until things were solved or at least in a better place. So, that’s what we did. We laid it all out there and got through it. Not only is our co-parenting relationship okay, I would say it’s better than ever.

There are still days when I don’t feel like I have it all together. Being a stepmom is truly a roller coaster of ups and downs. You’re constantly trying to find your place and not over step boundaries and just when you have it figured out, things change. In October of 2017, Sam and I welcomed a baby girl, so now I hold the title of wife, stepmom, and mom. Each role has its own challenges, but being a stepmom has prepared me for so much. I have a confidence in being a mom I know I wouldn’t have otherwise had.

Photo by Stephenie Kern

I love the place we’re at now, and we have those hard, and sometimes embarrassing, moments to thank for that. I got over my insecurities by communicating with my husband and the same can be said for the inevitable tough c-oparenting situations that come up. Respectful communication has always solved things for us, we just had to learn it the hard way.”

Boy Aaron Photography

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Karyn Liebler of Missouri. You can follow her journey on InstagramDo you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

Read more inspiring stories of successful co-parenting:

‘No, we are not a same sex couple, but we do share a daughter. Not only did I gain a daughter, I gained a brother and a best friend.’

‘This is my dad, mowing my mom’s lawn. They’ve been divorced 28 years.’

‘We were court ordered to conduct drop offs and pick-ups at the police station. We were a mess. A disgrace. I knew this wasn’t healthy for our children.’

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